Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Solar Dehydrator/Dryer Project

This was my pet project. I started studying solar dehydration and food preservation techniques for the mission field in the mid to late 1980's when my husband and I were planning on going to South Africa. Things started getting really bad in South Africa right before we were planning on heading there, so we were never able to go. Which meant that I never got a chance to put any of the information into practice.

Tim building the Solar Dehydrator

Rocky building the trays for the Solar Dehydrator

Now, 20+ years later God is allowing me to use the knowledge I learned to impact people's lives. Rocky and Tim built a simple and duplicatable solar dehydrator on top of the new school building out of locally available and inexpensive materials. I taught area residents and community leaders on how to preserve their foods using solar drying. The people were very interested, and it was encouraging to see them taking notes, drawing diagrams of the design, and asking questions.

Sandi teaching the people
Sandi teaching the people

Loading the Solar Dehydrator

We loaded the dryer with tomatoes, bananas, potatoes, and sugar cane. In trying to make the process as easy to perform as possible, and knowing that clean water and charcoal to cook with are precious commodities, I'd tried to do the potatoes without blanching/ pre-treating them. That didn't work, and I had to toss the first tray of potatoes. I tried another load that I'd soaked in water with fresh lemon juice, but had to toss that tray as well. I came to the conclusion that to do potatoes they would have to be blanched so as not to turn black. We decided to do pineapple in place of the potatoes, and also added some ripe bananas that had been pre-soaked in water with lemon juice to preserve their color better, green bananas (used to make matoke), eggplant, and green pepper. Everything has turned out great, and people are very excited. There are even plans of making goat jerky in the future.

The project will help the people to not only extend the food available during the growing seasons so that there is food available in the dry season, but will also provide a stream of income to people as well. One industrious young man is already planning on making the dryers and selling them. Smart man... Praise God! What a blessing to see how God can prepare us with skills years before the door opens to use them. I had at one point given up even being able to use my training, but God is faithful!


alex said...

Awesome job and thanks for sharing the photos. It's very impressive and will be so useful. Sorry about the potatoes. I've never been able to do dehydrate them without blanching either. Goat jerky, exotic.

Martha said...

Hi, Sandi. I have finally gotten to read some of the posts from the trip. Great job on all counts.

Just to let you know that I made it back home without any complications in flight. Thank you again for inviting me.

I hope the safari has been a great experience for all.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to meet the plane at Dulles on Monday - I need to make an out of town trip that day. I will be in touch soon about connecting so I can get the Lugandan dresses that
Tracy/Suzanne picked up for me.

Blessings on all of you as you continue your journeys. Martha